White mountain peaks, cinematic lagoons, lakes and rivers. Ancient ruins, mediaeval castles and the echoes of a heroic past: meet Nafpaktos and Messolonghi. During our Go West Travel Bloggers Greece trip, I have discovered a Greece where winter activities and sunny beaches meet each other in perfect harmony. An all-year-round destination with lots to see, do and learn.
Where is Nafpaktos?
Nafpaktos is a coastal town in Western Greece. It is not so widely known to foreign tourists but it is one of the most picturesque places in this part of Greece. Nafpaktos combines the sea with the mountains thus making it an all year round destination and a popular weekend destination for Greeks.
Nafpaktos is an ancient town with a rich history. Because of its strategic position at the Corinthian Gulf, its past is characterized by centuries of battles to protect itself from various intruders and
Things to do in Nafpaktos with kids
Visit the castle of Nafpaktos
One must-visit in Nafpaktos with kids is the Nafpaktos castle. It is one of the largest and most well-preserved fortifications in Greece. It’s first settlements date back to ancient times and the castle went through many construction phases after.
We travelled back in time visiting the castle feeling like pirates and knights. Our guide brought the monument to live with her vivid stories about life in past times.
The children ran around freely under the pine trees and we enjoyed
The view from the top is breathtaking. The castle is open from 8 AM until 3:30 PM and the entrance is 1 Euro in winter, and 2 Euro in summer time. On Tuesdays, the castle is closed.
Stroll through the old town
We strolled down from the top of the hill via the fortification walls through the picturesque old town. We passed through narrow cobbled streets, saw beautiful houses and colourful flowers. On the way, we stopped at the tower clock and admired a beautiful view over the Venetian harbour.
Visit Markos Botsaris Mansion
During our stroll through the old town, we also passed the Markos Botsaris Mansion. A beautiful stone building dating back to the 15th century that now serves as a museum with artefacts from the Battle of Nafpaktos. A museum that was of interest to the children, both for its objects and its beautiful gardens with magical trees.
Walk around the Venetian Harbour of Nafpaktos
A big part of the old city in Nafpaktos is surrounded by two defence walls that start at the top of the hill at Nafpaktos castle and reach the sea, where they form the famous Venetian horseshoe-shaped harbour with two towers at its opening. There are two statues at the port. The first one is Cervantes, who took part in the battle of Lepanto and as a result lost his left hand. The other one is called Anemogiannis. Giorgos Anemogiannis took part in the deliberation of Nafpaktos from the Turks, during the Greek War of Independence. In May 1821, he tried to burn the Turkish fleet at the harbour of Nafpaktos. However, he failed and got captured and killed by the Turks. He is considered a national hero because of his courage and contribution to the freedom of Greece.
Go to the beach in Nafpaktos
Nafpaktos has 2 blue flag beaches. These are Gribovo and Psani of which the first one is the most child-friendly beach with sand and shallow sea. The beach had a nice play castle and a cute pond with swans and ducks. This beach also features swings and games for children.
Alternatively, you can swim at nearby beaches and picturesque seaside villages. Such as at the seaside village Chania. There you can also leave your car and board a ferry boat to visit Trizonia. Scroll down to the chapter about Nearby Nafpaktos with Kids to find
Make a trip to the mountains
The mountain of Varasova and mountainous Nafpaktia have been declared as a historic place with great natural beauty. In ‘Ano Chora’, the main village of Nafpaktia and less than an hour away from Nafpaktos, you can follow cooking lessons and taste local gastronomy. Most local cuisine is prepared with a traditional woodfired oven. You can also book trips to collect chestnuts, mushrooms, herbs and aromatic plants when visiting Nafpaktos with kids.
Our group was invited to go rafting with Rafting House. This company accepts kids starting from 5 – 6 years old. The rafting takes places at the Evinos river at 16 km away from Nafpaktos.
Other outdoor activities are mountain biking, archery, hiking and climbing. Varasova Mountain along with Meteora, are the two largest climbing parks in Greece. You may think that these activities are not suitable for families with young kids but keep in mind that Go Nafpaktia can adopt several of these activities to young kids. Alternatively, there are also educators available to entertain children (5-14 years) in 3-hour programs when their parents participate in activities unsuitable for the kiddos.
We had a fabulous time outdoors in Nafpaktos. We played next to the Evinos river where we admired pebbles and flowers and walked over a bridge.
The Nafpaktos Children Festival takes places in August and features theatrical performances, puppet shows and many more activities for kids. And more interesting events are being organized in Nafpaktos. The Battle of Lepanto takes place in the first week of October. It is an enactment of the Battle of Lepanto, in commemoration of the historic events. The International Folk Festival presents dancers from around the world. The Chestnut festival takes place in the second week in October. You can combine this event with the production of the Greek drink Tsipouro that also takes place in October.
Where to stay in Nafpaktos with Kids
My family and I stayed at the family-friendly Hotel Nafpaktos on the beach in the city. Its sister hotel is called Akti Nafpakto. These hotels are located opposite to each other, just steps away from Nafpaktos beach and a 5-minute walk to the town centre and the Venetian harbour. Hotel Akti Nafpaktos is a three-star, family run hotel recently renovated. Our apartment room was spacious with comfortable beds and two large balconies with a magnificent sea view and view over the famous Rio-Antirio bridge. Breakfast was buffet style and had a large selection of food, drinks and fresh orange juice. The hotel staff was nice and hospitable and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Nafpaktos with kids looking for an affordable and convenient family hotel.
Where to eat in Nafpaktos with Kids
There are many suitable restaurants when travelling to Nafpaktos with kids. We had Greek lunch and dinner at the Fours Seasons Tavern. The tavern is located on a quiet road near the beach. We tried Greek delicacies such as mussel-risotto and filled cabbage leaves. I especially liked the fresh salads and vegetables. The children were treated with fresh fruits and popcorn.
We also had dinner at family Taverna Petrino located on the boulevard across the pebbled beach of Nafpaktos. Here we indulged seasonal salad, beetroot, spinach pie and rooster in red sauce with pasta. In the summertime, the tables of this restaurant are on the beach.
How to get to Nafpaktos
There is no airport in Nafpaktos but the closest is the airport of Patra-Araxos. This small airport works in summer and receives charter flights from abroad. From Patra, there are daily buses to Nafpaktos. Alternatively, you can fly into the regional airport of Kalamata (summer) or the International Airport of Athens.
By car from Athens: The journey from Athens lasts 3 hours. You need to take the national road from Athens towards Patras, you cross the Rio – Antirio bridge and you follow the signs towards Nafpaktos. The tolls on the bridge are 13,50 Euro for a regular car. This is the most convenient route for Nafpaktos with kids. Alternatively, you can also cross by ferry boat which is approximately a 15-minute ride and costs € 6,50.
Nearby Nafpaktos with kids
The island of Trizonia
The island of Trizonia is only 500m from the shore of the mainland. It is a true gem and a destination very suitable for families with young children. There are no cars on Trizonia, it is quiet and very picturesque. Its inviting harbour hosts taverns with fresh fish and relaxed corners for drinks and play. In the
Things to do in Trizonia with kids
I can recommend taking a boat trip around the island. It was very relaxing and a nice break for the children. We past from caves and bird colonies and a small beach where seals are spotted.
We also loved strolling around the small harbour. The children played with the street cats and us adults sat down in one of the
Where to eat in Trizonia?
Do not miss a seafood meal at the
Where to stay in Trizonia
We did not stay over at Trizonia but we did visit the Iasmos boutique hotel, located in the port. The hotel features family suitable apartments and communal space with games and books for children. Its seaside rooms offer amazing views over the port.
During our stay in Nafpaktos, our hosts organized a day trip to Messolonghi for us. I had never been to Messolonghi before but was immediately captured by its natural beauty and heroic past.
Messologhi is the capital city of the area and has approximately 13,000 inhabitants. It is built between the lagoon of Messolonghi and the one of Kleisova at the estuary of Evinos and Acheloos river. Situated between two lagoons, Messolongi (from the Italian mezzo
Messolonghi has a glorious cultural and historical past, as it was the birthplace of important Greek authors and politicians. It has also played a crucial role in Greek history. By government regulation, Messolongi was declared a Sacred City in 1937. Nowadays, Messolonghi is a major fish-production centre with unique architecture and wildlife.
Things to do in Messolonghi with Kids
Garden of Heroes
Messolonghi is also called the City of Heroes because the city showed unparalleled courage and resistance during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. When the city was besieged by a much larger force of Ottoman Turks and Egyptians, the whole population decided to break out in 1826. Only a fraction survived but this ‘Exodus’ became a milestone in Greek history and attracted greater international support. Lord Byron died in Messolonghi, inspiring hundreds of Philhellenes to support the Cause, and national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, immortalised the famous siege in an epic poem. We could almost hear the echos of the Greek Revolution during our visit to the Garden of Heroes.
This leafy garden was created to commemorate the heroes of the Greek War of Independence. Here, underneath tall pine and palm trees, we saw the statues and tombs of many renowned patriots and philhellenes such as one of Lord Byron. It was an emotional experience listening to the captivating stories of our guide George. I believe that my children were too young to fully understand the tour but they were fascinated by the canons, gunpowder barrels and defence wall around the garden. Do not miss out on this special place, even if your children are too young, they can run around freely at the garden.
Stroll the sunny streets of the town
After our visit to the Garden of Heroes, we walked towards the picturesque town centre passing a large playground. It’s easy to walk around the well-organized streets of Messolonghi with children. We admired the local architecture and visited the tourist office where we were welcomed with local sweets and valuable information about this fairly unknown region.
We also saw maquettes of the famous Messolonghi fishing boats and lots of local products and books.
Museum in the Town Hall
At the picturesque town hall square, we visited the Museum of History and Art and Municipal Art Gallery of Messolonghi. Housed in the beautiful neoclassical Town hall building, the Museum’s collection includes authentic paintings and reproductions of scenes of the heroic Exodus, guns, coins and medals.
Also exhibited are personal items and manuscripts belonging to Lord Byron. We especially liked the old newspaper press and the early manuscripts of the Greek National Anthem.
Can’t get enough of art? The Contemporary Art Gallery houses an important collection of 20th-century Greek painters, sculptors and engravers. In the winter, the museum is open daily from 9 – 1:30 and from 4 pm to 8 pm. In summertime until 7pm. There is a different schedule on weekends and national holidays. Entrance is free.
The Messolonghi wetlands
Did you know that Messolonghi has one of the Mediterranean’s richest wetlands? The lagoons and the deltas of the Acheloos and Evinos rivers form a large habitat for over birds and fish, covering 140,000 sqm. It attracts more than 200 types of birds such as flamingos and pelicans ( best observed between October – March). My children were very excited to see the flamingos standing peacefully in the water. There are many ways to experience the wetlands such as kayaking among the flamingos and cycling around the lagoon. We drove up the mountains and had a panoramic view of the lagoon with its sea lake and salt pits. We could see as far as Zante island.
Ancient Plevronas Archeological Site
High up that mountain, we not only admired a beautiful view of the lagoon, but we also visited the ancient site of New Pleuron. According to Euripides, this was the town of origin of Helen of Troy. You can visit unique monuments such as the theatre, Agora, an impressive large water reservoir and part of the city roads.
Boat ride to Tourlida
A boat ride is the best way to understand the complexity of the wetlands. We sailed on a traditional fishing boat to the island of Tourlida. The kids loved watching the fishing nets on boards and the captain’s hut. We passed from small bird colonies, lighthouses and natural ports.
Most impressive are the traditional Messolonghi fishermen stilt houses called ‘
Taste local products
The hidden waters and the unique geological setting of Messolonghi produce several local products, unique in Greece. The region is famous for bottarga caviar from grey mullet caught in the lagoon. Another treasure of the region is salt. Did you know that 80% of Greece’s salt is produced here? We had a chance to taste the salt, the Greek caviar and the local produced salted and smoked sea bream in olive oil. We also tried a local ouzo brand which has been produced since 1901.
Where to eat in Messolonghi
We continued our food feast with a delightful fresh fish lunch at Radiomegaro, Boulis restaurant. A family-friendly restaurant with excellent food, fresh fish and a garden playground.
We were in Messolonghi for only one day. But there is much more to see and do. If you have extra time, do not miss the traditional watermill and the Folklore Museum. You can also enjoy therapeutic mud baths at the thermal waters near Tourlida. And what about fishing up your own fresh fish from the natural fish farms? You can enjoy your catch of the day with a beach picnic.
For more information about Messolonghi, I recommend a visit to the Tourist Office located right of the main square on 6 Elef. Poliorkimenon street. Here you will find more about the area, local products, books and bike rental. You can also book organized excursions and family activities such as horse riding, archery and cooking classes.
How to get to Messolonghi
By bus or car, Messolonghi is 20 minutes away from Nafpaktos and 3,5 hours from Athens. Its nearest airport for international flights (in summer) is Araxos.
We had a great long weekend in Nafpaktos and Messolonghi and we will definitely come back one day. Have you been to Nafpaktos and what was your favorite family activity?
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Travel Bloggers Greece was invited by Go Nafpaktia. We thank Go Nafpaktia and the Municipality of Nafpaktia for hosting us and making our trip to Nafpaktos memorable. We further thank Discover Messolonghi for their hospitality. Refer to the Go Nafpaktia website for more information about things to do in Nafpaktos with Kids.
** As always, all thoughts and opinions remain my own, despite any complimentary services received. ** Photo credits featured photo: http://www.nafpaktos.gr/